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Education reform: the problem with helping everyone reach 'average'

The crisis in US education isn't just overall poor national performance. Even our best students are less competitive. If we really want to 'win the future,' we have to target our brightest students, not ignore them in the fight to bring all students up to 'proficiency.'

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The alarm clock is sounding on American education. While China’s emergence as an educational powerhouse is relatively new, the continued poor performance by US students – though improved, still 31st place in math on the most recent international test – is not. Today, Shanghai tops the charts, but yesterday, it was other nations. Even a casual observer of education news knows the US long ago ceded its place as world leader in student performance. It’s an unsettling state of affairs.

West loses edge to Asia in education: Top five OECD findings

But what’s more unsettling is how prominent education leaders like Education Secretary Arne Duncan have called America’s sorry standing a “wakeup call.” President Obama has called for a new “Sputnik moment” to reignite the nation’s commitment to science education. But the wakeup alarm didn’t just start going off. It sounded decades ago; the US has just repeatedly hit the snooze button.

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